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Under The Radar – July 31, 2017

Jason Barrett

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The MLB Trade Deadline took place Monday, and as expected, a flurry of activity unfolded. However, the moves paled in comparison to the past week’s sports media developments. A reminder, if you’d like to have your individual or company’s news shared in this column in the future, please send any important details to us via email at [email protected].

Now on to the news we go!

Great news for Mad Dog Sports Radio morning hosts Evan Cohen and Mike Babchik. The Morning Men have been tabbed by the Dan Patrick Show to fill in this Wednesday and Thursday. Cohen and Babchik will air on television on The Audience Network and NBC Sports Network. The only question is how many viewers will have the strength to hold down their breakfast after being visually exposed to a topless Babchik?

Changes are taking place in San Francisco. KNBR has parted ways with 680 evening host and update anchor Ray Woodson and cancelled the local 1050 programs, The Audible and The Ted Ramey Show. Woodson had been with KNBR for the past twenty years. He was recently hosting evenings when local play by play didn’t air on 680’s airwaves. On 1050, midday host Ted Ramey lost his daily talk show, but will continue to be heard on the radio station as the voice of the San Jose Earthquakes. Morning co-host Rudy Ortiz was also let go as part of the changes.

ESPN Radio is making a smart move tapping into their affiliates to feature some of their outstanding talent, while strengthening their relationships with local operators in the process. Case in point, 97.1 The Fan in Columbus weekday host and former Ohio State and NFL Linebacker, Bobby Carpenter, has been summoned by the network to join Dave Rothenberg and Eric Karabell on ESPN Radio’s Fantasy Focus football show. The program debuts when the NFL season begins.

Speaking of fantasy football, Nate Lundy announced on social media that the Fantasy Football Hour program he works on for Altitude Sports has received some great news. The show expects to expand into additional major markets. Lundy says further details will be provided soon.

Kirk Minihane of WEEI in Boston sat down with former program director Jason Wolfe for a fascinating conversation on his Enough About Me podcast. The first part of the interview reflects on Wolfe’s early years at WEEI and a number of key decisions that took place on his watch. The second part of the interview will be released soon. To hear Part 1 click here.

After adding Mike Jurecki last month to strengthen its midday show, 98.7FM Arizona’s Sports Station has made another move to increase their local offerings during evening hours. The radio station has added The Rundown with Luke Lapinski. The show is said to be opinion driven, fast paced, and offer a complete look at the biggest sports stories of the day. Phoenix sports fans can catch the program on non-local play-by-play game nights at 6pm MT.

That isn’t the only news that 98.7FM Arizona’s Sports Station has to share. A special congratulations is in order for Rod Lakin. After contributing in a variety of roles over the span of 11 years, Lakin has been promoted from Executive Producer to Assistant Program Director. In his new role, Lakin will take on additional duties including working closer with the digital content team and being further involved in the brand’s overall growth strategy.

Exciting news for 810 WHB in Kansas City. After 610 Sports announced last week it had been forced to part ways with the University of Kansas, the school wasted no time in announcing a new five-year deal with 610’s top competitor. The Union Broadcasting station will take over as the broadcast partner of the Jayhawks, airing both football and men’s basketball, as well as coaches shows on the radio station. For additional information click here.

Elsewhere on the college circuit, the Nevada Wolf Pack have found their next voice for football and men’s basketball. John Ramey has accepted the position and fills the void left behind by Ryan Radtke who joined Westwood One to call national games.

Staying in Nevada, ESPN Las Vegas 1100/100.9FM have hired a new producer. Chrissy Paradis is on her way to Sin City to contribute to the station’s weekday programs. Paradis previously produced Rob Dibble’s show in Hartford.

After announcing in May that they had reached an agreement to move football and men’s basketball broadcasts to 1280 and 97.5FM The Zone, Utah State and Learfield Communications have revealed that VP of radio operations and weekday sports talk show host Scott Garrard will serve as the school’s new play-by-play announcer for both football and men’s basketball. Former Utah State Offensive Tackle Kevin Whimpey will provide color commentary on football broadcasts. The school says an announcement will be made at a later time regarding the men’s basketball color analyst.

After ten seasons calling Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs baseball, Jon Schaeffer is heading west. The play-by-play announcer shared that he is joining XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego. Schaeffer will produce the midday program hosted by Mark Willard and Rich Ohrnberger.

Tim Donnelly has received an opportunity to advance his career. The former Delaware quarterback turned Nebraska sports director and host, has agreed to join ESPN Ithaca where he’ll contribute in a variety of ways including as a weekday talk show host. Donnelly is expected to start his new job in a few weeks.

WGR Buffalo Bills beat/sideline reporter Sal Capaccio has created a new podcast titled SalSports…and Stuff. Capaccio says the podcast will feature guests from a number of different backgrounds and he hopes to feature a number of interesting stories for the benefit of the audience.

Congratulations to Danielle McCartan. The high school teacher and sports blogger earned an hour of air time last week to host on WFAN in New York. McCartan hosted the 3a-4a ET hour of the Thursday overnight shift.

95.7 The Game in San Francisco is adding to its bench. The radio station has brought in Jason Page to work part-time shifts.

Brian Custer is in great spirits after securing a new deal with FOX Sports to provide play-by-play this season for college football games. Custer will team with former NFL Linebacker Ben Leber to call a combination of Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-12 games.

The Athletic continues to add talented writers to its numerous local platforms. This week Seth Davis‘ new college basketball platform The Field House added Sam Vecenie. The Athletic CFB brought in Max Olson, and The Athletic Cleveland welcomed Aaron Portzline. The Athletic Chicago though informed Sam Highkin that his contract will not be renewed this September.

Last but not least, Michael Phillips has been named the new sports editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Mike Florio: Giving Teams Too Many Prime-Time Games ‘Compromises the Integrity of the Game’

“At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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Mike Florio
Courtesy: Denny Medley, USA TODAY Sports

Mike Florio spent time on his Pro Football Talk Live show talking about the NFL schedule which was released in full earlier this week. The focus of the discussion was on the New York Jets schedule, however the topic related to many of the top teams in football. With the league wanting to maximize revenue there are more stand-alone games, which Florio says have “an extra layer of stress and strain.”

The Jets will have six prime-time games over the team’s first 11 weeks of the season. This includes an opening week Monday Night Football road game on the other side of the country against the San Franciso 49ers, two Sunday Night Football games, a Thursday Night Football game, one other appearance on Monday Night Football and a trip to London to play the Vikings.

Florio believes it is unfair to have teams with this much travel and this many featured games. “See, this is a TV show,” he said. “This is where the pursuit of money, the pursuit of maximum ratings, laying the foundation for putting all of the TV contracts out to bid again after the 2029 season, it gets in the way of giving teams a fair shake.”

He later added, “The truth is, the broadcast partners are clamoring for Aaron Rodgers…so they loaded it up early before the Jets have the wheels come off…The problem is they’re kicking the wheels off by doing this. By having them hopscotch the country and play short weeks twice and all of these prime-time games. There’s an extra layer of stress and strain that goes into all of these stand-alone games and all of this travel early in the season.”

Rodgers is coming off missing an entire season due to an Achilles injury and will turn 41 in early December. “Let’s be realistic about it, you’re putting him in a position where this 40-year-old body is going to be strained beyond reasonable limits from all these games on short [rest],” Florio said. “…It’s dangerous to Aaron Rodgers and its disadvantageous to the Jets and it compromises the integrity of the game.

“You still have an obligation to balance things out. It can’t be ‘let’s have the best possible TV audiences, that can’t be the driving factor…It should be a fair balance for all teams…At some point it’s just going to be whatever we think every week is going to lead to the biggest ratings and the biggest numbers and the most money, that’s what we’re going to do and it’s unfair to certain teams to do that.”

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Marv Albert Talks Retirement, Play-by-Play and OJ Simpson Chase with Dan Patrick

“I must say retirement has been great.”

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Marv Albert
Courtesy: PDA Speakers

Three years ago on Friday, legendary play-by-play announcer Marv Albert announced that he would be retiring from his role as the lead voice of the NBA on TNT. This concluded a 55-year broadcast career during which he called 13 NBA Finals matchups, eight Super Bowl championships, eight Stanley Cup Final series and countless other memorable games across a variety of professional sports. Albert is the former television play-by-play announcer for the New York Knicks and appeared on the Dan Patrick Show where he discussed his takeaways of the team. In fact, Albert divulged that he was at Madison Square Garden during the team’s first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Patrick wanted to know from Albert how he was enjoying retirement, a reality that he himself will be facing in three years. Last summer, Patrick announced that his final show would take place on Dec. 24, 2027 and inked a four-year contract extension with NBC Sports and iHeartMedia. Patrick’s show currently airs on FOX Sports Radio and can be live streamed through NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service. Albert has not been behind the microphone for approximately three years, but he is still keeping in tune with what is going on around the sports world.

“Life is good, Dan. How are you doing?,” Albert asked. “I must say retirement has been great. I do miss the preparation and the people I work with, and we do stay in touch, but I am Mr. Binge TV, and I do a lot of reading, work out, all those kind of things, but all is good. I’ve been enjoying the playoffs also.”

Earlier on Friday morning, PGA Tour professional golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and charged with a felony and other counts after he allegedly injured a police officer. Scheffler was driving by the scene of a fatal crash and was charged with felony second-degree assault on a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from officers during traffic. Scheffler was released from jail in the morning and played the second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Course in Louisville, Ky. Patrick mentioned the police chase involving O.J. Simpson that lasted for two hours following Simpson being charged with murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

Albert was in the midst of calling Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks. He vividly remembers players going to the press table at Madison Square Garden, which had televisions, and trying to see the latest action going on during the car chase.

“Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC Sports, was sitting to our left in the stands, but he had an earpiece so he heard exactly what was going on, and he was kind of directing the activity also,” Albert recalled. “‘Send it back to Tom [Brokaw]; go over to Bob [Costas],’ all this stuff. ‘By the way, there’s Charles Smith with the jump shot.’ It really was the most unusual situation I have been in on the air.”

Patrick was curious to know what has changed in terms of play-by-play announcing since Albert has retired, to which he replied that things largely remained the same in basketball. In other sports though, Albert has observed that there is more talking than there was in the past, articulating that he watches a lot of baseball and has noticed it during the broadcasts. Patrick added that he enjoys the usage of silence within a call and believes it is a lost art with the ostensible need to consistently speak when they are describing something, a sentiment Albert agreed with and explained was more compatible with television broadcasts.

“There’s no question,” Albert said. “You can use the crowd – the crowd is very important, particularly at times like this during the playoffs where the crowds are at another level.”

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Gregg Giannotti: Emmanuel Berbari Needs to Do a Little Better Than ‘Gone, Goodbye’

“I just know as a listener, it’s not doing it for me.”

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Gregg Giannotti
Courtesy: Peter Ackerman, Asbury Park Press

The New York Yankees are entrenched in the upper pantheon of the Major League Baseball standings to begin the new season. The team has won eight of its last 10 games, including a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins and looks poised for a deep postseason run, but there have been hardships the organization has had to overcome to get there. Additionally, longtime Yankees radio play-by-play voice John Sterling retired from the broadcast booth in mid-April, ending an illustrious 36-year run calling the team’s games. Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti talked about one of Sterling’s replacements on Boomer & Gio.

Occupying the play-by-play announcing role throughout the regular season has been Justin Shackil and Emmanuel Berbari, both of whom have filled in for Sterling in the past when he had to miss games. Berbari worked alongside analyst Suzyn Waldman for the team’s series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, broadcast on the team’s flagship station, WFAN. Shortstop Anthony Volpe hit a leadoff home run to commence the final game of the series, and Berbari gave a home run call of ‘Gone, goodbye!’ on the air. WFAN host Gregg Giannotti, however, believes that there is room for improvement for the young announcer.

“I am fascinated by these guys that are now filling in for John Sterling, and John has retired, because you have to kind of thread a needle because you don’t want to be too over the top but you don’t want to be too boring, so how do you figure that out,” Giannotti said on Friday morning’s edition of Boomer & Gio on WFAN. “If I were giving Emmanuel Berbari advice, I would say we go to to just do a little bit better than ‘Gone, goodbye.’”

Giannotti ultimately compelled Berbari to try and find a middle ground between his ‘Gone, goodbye’ call and Sterling’s signature call for home runs by Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Co-host Boomer Esiason asked Giannotti to give Berbari an example of what he would be satisfied with, to which he replied that he was not a play-by-play announcer.

“As a consumer, as a listener, I don’t know,” Giannotti said. “I’m not the one who has to think about it. I just know as a listener, it’s not doing it for me.”

Esiason proceeded to remind Giannotti of the time that they called a New Jersey Devils game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He wanted to know if Giannotti had thought about his call if the Devils scored a goal, off which he stated that he had not. Anchor Jerry Recco, who also works as a play-by-play announcer, explained that he perceives it to be a different situation when calling a baseball game.

“Yeah, you do think about it,” Recco said. “I’ve never really done baseball, but there are different home runs as well though. You’ve got the little line drives that you don’t know are going to get out and you kind of react to it. You’ve got the Judge one the other night that was a moonshot.”

From there, Esiason added that if he were calling the games, it would be difficult for him to manufacture excitement in a mid-May matchup that the Yankees are expected to win. In fact over the last five years, the Yankees have a 19-8 regular-season record against the Twins and have also defeated them during the postseason.

“John figured out a way to do it for a million years – 162 games,” Giannotti replied.

“Yankees-Marlins on a Tuesday night, he was fired up,” Recco added.

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